I’m not referring to that awesome song by Queen, although that could be a fitting lead to the soundtrack of my time in Prague. Bohemia actually refers to the kingdom from the Holy Roman Empire that later becomes part of the Habsburg Empire. However, I usually think about the word as defined by its adjective form Bohemian, “someone usually an artist, writer or intellect who lives an unconventional, wandering life.” While I may not be an artist, writer or intellect, I can definitely relate to the unconventional, gypsy wandering part. It’s week 3 of this insanely awesome adventure and I’ve been in 4 countries and traveled over 5000 miles, but it’s just now in Prague that it dawned on me that I’m not on vacation. This is my actual life!
After spending a week here, I can fully understand the many reasons that Prague is on so many people’s list of favorite European cities. Copenhagen set the bar so high that I wasn’t sure if I could enjoy the next city nearly as much and I am pleased to report that Prague is now also one of my favorite cities. The architecture alone is just stunning with a combination of baroque, gothic and modern buildings living in harmony. I was a super-Asian tourist in this city the first couple of days as I HAD to have my camera around my neck because there were simply too many beautiful things to take photos of here. And each time I saw something that I was certain was the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen, around the corner something else would magically appear and be equally, if not more freaking gorgeous.
In addition to the incredible architectural delights, the city is full of parks, monuments, gardens, sculptures and bridges that are also simply jawdropping. The central part of the city is broken into several different neighborhoods:
- Prazky Hrad A Hradcany – Prague Castle
- Mala Strana (“Little Quarter”)
- Stare Mesto (“Old Town”)
- Nove Mesto (“New Town”)
- Josefov (“Jewish Quarter”)
I stayed in a couple of different Airbnbs outside of the center. That’s become my preference not only because it tends to be cheaper to stay away from the center of town, but I enjoy being away from the mayhem of tourists and pretending that I’m a local. It also gives me an opportunity to also buy some food and cook simple stuff so I don’t have to eat all of my meals in cafes or restaurants. There are aspects of CZ that remind me a bit of my time when I lived in Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The language, food and people are somewhat similar, but the Czech Republic is far more developed and in my opinion, vastly more beautiful than Ukraine (sorry Ukrainian friends!).
And like the other cities I’ve visited to date, these areas are well mapped with public transportation options with metro, buses and trams. But despite the completely logical and convenient public transportation options, like with the other cities, I spent a good amount of my time lost, wandering around the city. And here’s the thing, being lost in a city is one of my favorite things, not only because I’m really excellent in this area, but also it’s lead to some of my favorite discoveries whether they’re places or people.
On my 3rd day here, I met a woman from London named Annie who was traveling alone for the first time. We bonded for a bit before her group tour at a Starbucks in close proximity to Prague Castle. She was really excited to have the opportunity to talk to someone because she felt quite alone and isolated and Czech people generally aren’t going to initiate conversation with you, many don’t speak English. Annie and I laughed about being lost so frequently and while she was really frustrated with herself about it, I told her it’s actually a part of my travel repertoire that I’ve grown to love. And when I asked her about how she was enjoying her first solo trip, she replied with trepidation, “I’m not sure I like it. It’s lonely and kind of hard.” And I listened while she shared some of her stress with me. After she finished, I told her that I agree that solo travel has its moments of loneliness, but that I bet when she’s done, she’ll find that she loves it. I went on to say “it becomes kind of addictive. Your schedule is all yours. You wake up when you want, eat whatever you want, go wherever you’d like and when you’re on your own, every once in a while you meet some pretty great people who may not have approached you if you were with someone else.” She smiled in reply and said, ” you know, you’re right. And I feel kind of like a badass warrior doing it on my own, don’t you?” Yes, Annie, I do.